Late on Saturday afternoon, James and I walked gingerly onstage in the Royal Geographical Society’s Ondaatje Theatre. Around 200 people sat in the audience — a handful of family, friends, fellow adventurers and cyclists, and a large proportion of the delegates from the RGS’ “Explore” annual seminar.
I thanked those in attendance for coming. I made a little joke. People laughed. This itself was reassuring: I utterly hate public speaking. James introduced himself as the producer-director, introduced the film, and we made our escape before outstaying our welcome. Then the film began.
78 minutes later we mounted the stage once again as the rolling credits vanished from the top of the screen. The lights came up. The crowd erupted and the entire audience raised up in a standing ovation. I had no idea what the appropriate response was supposed to be, and so I stumbled around in a fog of adrenaline. The clapping seemed to last for hours. I found myself giving James a massive hug under the spotlights. James said something to those assembled in the auditorium, but I can’t remember what it was.
The applause continued and we stepped down. For some reason I found myself sitting back down in my seat, as if the film was going to continue. My legs had turned to jelly. I can’t remember ever feeling such a mixture of terror, elation and sheer bewilderment. A very senior member of the RGS came over and told us to treasure this moment, because he’d never seen anything like it. “This never happens”, he said.
This all probably sounds rather vain. That’s not my intention. Having put travelling on the back-burner, I set out to write about the production of this film. I’d still be writing this article if it had fallen flat. But it’s relief that I feel right now, more than anything else; the culmination of 5 years of travail was put to the acid test, and it passed.
If the film goes no further than this, I’ll still be overjoyed. Sharing the story was a big objective from the word go, back in 2007, and after all the blog posts and short videos since then, the chance to finally tell a fully-formed story to a room full of real people was an enormous breath of fresh air!
A long journey still lies ahead. Whether or not the film goes on to be a commercial success seems of little importance compared with the potential it seems to have to move people emotionally.
I wish I could have extended the invitation to that private screening to all the readers of this blog, some of whom have been reading for several years, but tedious bureaucracy prevented me from doing so. Please bear with me; it won’t be too long before there’s a ‘real’ trailer online, and screenings will hopefully follow in the New Year, as well as a DVD and digital release. In the meantime, here’s a pre-trailer teaser of the film — a really early snippet of material that James has put together.